All text and photographs (unless stated otherwise) © Paul Timmerman
commissioned in 1951, Independence and Constitution were regarded as “top of
the bill”. They had graceful
counter sterns, very large sun decks
and could make 23 knots at top
also innovative: full airconditioning, smokestacks
designed to ensure that
would not reach the decks
ships were in fact the first important liners built for the New York
Mediterranean service since the 1930s.
there was talk of
a third ship, this never came to fruition. Instead,
the smaller and second-hand Atlantic was bought in 1960.
sisters were 683 ft. in length, and could accommodate ca. 1000 passengers. They
could easily be changed into troopers, carrying
times their commercial
Artists impression of Independence in her early days
1950s, their top-years, both ships were sailing on three-week roundtrips: from
New York to Algeciras, Naples, Genoa, Cannes and then back to Spain and New
they also went cruising in the off-season, winter period. Destinations were as
diverse as the Caribbean,
the Mediterranean and even the Black Sea.
Arriving at her New York berth
with all liners during the second half of the ‘60s, they were overtaken by the
aircraft. Rising costs of running American passenger ships did the rest.
In a last effort to keep her profitable, Independence was chartered to Fugazi Cruises. She was repainted “as a sunny ship” with a pop-art design on her hull and superstructure.
Independence under charter to Fugazi Cruises with a ' sunny' hull....
But in spite of this, she couldn’t keep up
with her newer, more modern competitors
in the trade. So American Export took
out of service and they were laid-up in 1969.
until 1974 until a buyer was found: the famous Taiwanese shipping tycoon Mr. C.Y.
Tung. Mr. Tung was acquiring a fleet of passenger-vessels at the time, amidst
them the famous ex-Cunarder Queen Elizabeth. Because of high fuel prices, they
mostly remained in lay-up in Hong Kong, making only a handful of cruises. Their names were changed in
Oceanic Independence and Oceanic
1976, there was talk of a sale of
the Oceanic Independence to a firm called Shannon SA. She was to
be renamed Sea Luck 1. This never materialized.
In 1976, there was talk of a sale of the Oceanic Independence to a firm called Shannon SA. She was to be renamed Sea Luck 1. This never materialized.
years later, the
Independence was put back into
regular service, sailing for Mr. Tungs
newly formed American Hawaii Cruises. The Constitution followed two years later.
They proved very popular, sailing out of Honolulu.
In 1982 her name was
shortened to Independence.
the Independence was refitted at the Newport News shipyard in Virginia.
was to follow in 1996, but it became clear that she needed much more work than
her sister. She sat for some time at a Portland, Oregon shipyard. When, in 1997
the Independence came in for repairs at the same yard, both ships were
together for the last time……. Next, Constitution was stripped of all parts that
could be used to keep her sister going for some years to come. Subsequently, she
was sold to Far Eastern scrappers. She never reached her final destination
however. She sank on November 1997 while under tow, northeast of Hawaii.
Constitution was gone now, but will always remembered for all those celebrities
she “ferried across”, the most famous being Grace Kelly sailing to Monaco for
her wedding with Prince Rainier in 1956.
At sea, American Hawaii logo on funnels
Independence would keep on sailing for American Hawaii Cruises until 2002, when parent company American Classic Voyages declared bankruptcy. She was instantly laid up.
It seemed obvious that she would never see active service again.......
However in a surprise move, she was acquired by NCL for her brand NCL America in 2003, together with the over 30 (!) years inactive United States. NCL stated that after a minor refit she would start sailing in US waters again. But nothing happened. They renamed her Oceanic in 2006 and a year later, NCL reported the Oceanic had been sold to an American company. Rumour had it she would be scrapped shortly afterwards. But she remained in lay up, slowly deteriorating, until February 8 2008 when she suddenly left San Francisco under tow. Her destination was thought to be the scrapyard in India or Bangladesh, but it was declared to be Singapore.
She didn't make it there however and is now in lay up in Dubai.